Mkuze 12 to 15 March 2020

Our Fortuner needed to be run in for at least 800 kms before we could tow our off-road trailer. So we decided to visit Mkuze and stay in one of their rest huts for 3 nights.

So we had 2 full days for birding/Atlassing. In that time we virtually drove all the roads around the Game Park. As usual kuMasinga was the best waterhole for birds and animals. However we did see some specials as we drove around.

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Cape Town and beyond

25th to 30th January 2020

This trip was planned at the very last minute. On the 23rd January I was told that my hip revision was postponed from 29th January to 3rd February. So, to fill in the week’s wait we decided to go to the Cape to find a few specials in Velddrif and at the same time to visit friends and family.

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Christmas in Zululand – Part 2

Mkuze and Bonamanzi

Mkuze

22nd to 28th December 2019

The journey from Ndumo to Mkuze took a couple of hours. We arrived early and set up camp by 09h30. My sister and family had arrived the day before and were out on a drive when we arrived. When they got back we were enjoying breakfast – bacon and eggs – much to their surprise.

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Australia – Melbourne and Brisbane Part 2

Part 2

Brisbane

7th to 25th October 2019

Variegated Fairy-wren

After almost three weeks in Melbourne with family we flew to Brisbane for the second part of our trip to Australia. This was our time to do some birding and to visit good friends living in the area.

On arrival we collected a cheap hire car for our travels which we collected from the airport. Our intention was to stay at different forms of accommodation as we travelled around. We figured that it was probably as cheap as hiring a campervan and we would have the pleasure of more comfort and access to our own loo.

Hire Car

Our first two nights were spent in Brisbane at a “Backpackers” which turned out to be more students accommodation for Asian students. Cheap and friendly.

The intention of our stay there was to stock up our food and booze supplies etc. as well as to do some local birding in the many parks in and around the city. So first we drove into town and followed the GPS to a “shopping mall”, parked underground, did our shopping and went to pay for parking. Rude shock AUS $18!!

We had hardly settled in at the Backpackers when we had a call from David to say he was not happy with us staying at a “Backpackers” and offering for us to move to better accommodation. Unfortunately that would mean losing time to bird the area. As we were meant to stay there also on our last night, David said he would book us into the Pullman hotel at the airport- much appreciated.

It took us some while to re-familiarise with the Australian birds. We went inland to JC Slaughter Falls to start with – hoping to find the Powerful Owl which habituates there. No luck and sort of surprised that birding was so quiet. This was a trend in most places because of the severe drought all over Australia. It is a very hilly park with tremendous views overlooking the city.

A Pacific Baza was one of the exceptional birds we did find in the Park along with an expected Laughing Kookaburra. Pied Currawongs and a Pied Butcherbird were also photographed.

There were a number of coastal beaches and wetland reserves we visited – Wynnum, Sandgate, Godwin Beach and Toorgul.

Wynnum: In the centre was a large body of water with hundreds of Grey-tailed Tattlers and White-headed Stilts. Some of the birds seen and an odd feather which appeared to be swimming:

Sandgate and Dowse: On the way to Sandgate we passed an inland body of water – Dowse Lagoon. A line of Plumed Ducks on the bank caught our eye so although it was late we stopped.

We had some interesting birding there. Spotting a darting Little Corella and a Brahminy Kite as well as Latham’s Rail on a nest and a number of Kingfishers.

We eventually got to Sandgate too late for birding.

Another place we visited was Godwin Beach where we did some shore bird birding.

And a raptor seen there needs identification:

Boondall Wetlands was an interesting place to visit – walkways through the mangroves.

One of favourite birding spots was Oxley Creek Common.

Oxley Creek Common

We visited Oxley Creek Common several times and made a good bird list (a bird list of what we identified and where is available to view or download at the end of this report).

Another bird for ID:

What am I? Striated Pardelote

After two days in Brisbane we headed north to Peregian Springs and Noosa. Here we stayed with friends for two nights. The bushfires came close to their home a couple of weeks before we got there. Some school kids had started a fire in the local forest and it raged along the coast for several days. Fortunately our friends were not evacuated but they were prepared just in case.

Our friends, notable birders, took us out to see the surrounds and to do some birding in areas which we never would have considered. Wonderful two days.

Then there were the birds and other critters:

And What am I?

After our time in Peregian Springs we went south of Brisbane and stayed for 2 nights in a grotty home – a shock after the lovely home we stayed at in Peregian Springs. Time was spent all day exploring the local parks and going to the wetlands in the area – Berrinba and Eagleby . Back to Oxley Common – our best inland birding spot around Brisbane.

The next 3 nights we spent in a splendid annex to a home at the base of a wooded mountain in Willow Vale – 52 Pitta Place.

From there we explored the Gold Coast (naf – my opinion) and several of the nearby birding spots. Probably the best of which were close to where we were staying.

Eventually we headed to O’Reilly’s via the Joalah Section in Mount Tamborine. A small reserve but one we really enjoyed. The first bird we saw in the canopy was a Wompoo Fruit-Dove a truly colourful bird. Logrunners were everywhere rustling the undergrowth but well camouflaged. On a short walk to the bottom to explore the waterfall we heard and found a pair of Green Catbirds – another first for us. At the “waterfall” at the bottom there was a Dragon and an eel – some of the other wildlife.

The drive to O’Reilly’s was interesting up the hairpin turns through the woods of gum, into an open area before eventually getting into the real forest – some 936 metres above sea level. We were expecting it to be much higher up so it was interesting to see how the habitat changed from such a small climb.

Our time at O’Reilly’s was spent birding alone as they had no guides to spare (which would have been great for night-time birding). As it was, day time birding did not really need a guide tho’ it would have been useful to identify some of the bird calls. There were many well trailed walks through the forest – so photography was testing especially taking shots of silhouetted birds. I gave up the monopod with a gimbal head as a dead loss – it was more of a nuisance than a help. 

The weather did not help as it was often overcast, misty or rainy. Despite that we had numerous lifers – some too easy to avoid – Satin and Regent Bowerbirds, King-Parrots and Crimson Rosellas virtually all over you.

Sally King with her tame King-Parrot headdress.

We did find some great birds amongst the forest walks – Paradise Riflebird (female), Green Catbirds, Topknot and Wonga Pigeons, Brown Gerygone, Yellow and Pale-Yellow Robins, even a Latham’s Snipe with its lovely striped back. We did not pick up a great variety of birds but we really enjoyed what we did see.

Paradise Riflebird female

The bar menu was reasonable by Australian standards and the Barramundi and chips was excellent so much so that we each chose it on the two occasions we ate there. That was the meal of choice too for the resident Possum!!

The highlight though was the Albert’s Lyrebird.

Once, we had a glimpse when it ran past us on one of the trails. However the first time we saw one was on the road in front of the Lodge reception while people gathered there for their morning guided walks. They were all too engrossed with the birds at the entrance to notice! Even the guides.

But our best viewing was right outside our room as we headed to the bar for a drink and dinner. There it was shuffling the leaves first with one foot and then the other. It was there for ages and took no notice of us less than 5 metres away. Sally even took a video which is not all that bad.

This is one place we would always return to when we next visit Brisbane.

Our next destination was Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary – some 850 kms east of Brisbane. A two day drive with a stop over at St. Georges. On arrival we relaxed a while before having a look round the village and alongside the river.

It was a long lonely road except for an occasional aminal crossing the road. Vehicles few and far between.

Another three hour drive and we got to Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary. As expected the accommodation was quite basic but it had good hot water and showers. It consisted of 6 rooms, 3 on either side of a long large dining space. A basic kitchen which worked and occasional WiFi to boot.

As you can see from the photos above the landscape was dry and dusty. However the worst part of the outside were the numerous burrs on the ground. You think you are treading on what look like cotton balls. In reality they are full of burrs. Which explained why there were several large hard bristle brushes nailed down beside every floor mat entrance to the Shearer’s Quarters. When you got back from walking around you had grown almost one cm in height with all the fluff and burrs under foot. All the burrs were impossibly prickly – forever attached to your socks and inside your shoes – made for uncomfortable walking at times.

When we arrived we were greeted by the volunteers in charge of managing Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary and they went through a list of birds we thought might be available to find in the area. Half the birds were quickly scratched off.

However, of those left on the list we made good in roads and ticked off I would guess 80%. Special birds included Spotted Bowerbirds; Apostlebirds; Chestnut-crowned and Hall’s Babblers; Bluebonnets; Common Bronzewing; Black-breasted Buzzard; Crimson Chat; Major Mitchell’s (aka Pink) Cockatoo; Splendid Fairy-wrens; Black and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters; Bourke’s, Mulga and Red-winged Parrots; Australian (Mallee) Ringnecks; Rufous Songlark; Brown Treecreepers; and all the Woodswallows except Dusky. Also numerous waterbirds.

The area is relatively small and flat so you can get around the area birding in a couple of days. There were numerous habitats where different species were found – although it was hard to know the difference from one to the other unless you knew your trees and bird habits. We were lucky to be told where to look for different species.

There were a few birds photographed which we are having difficulty to identify. Any help would be appreciated. Here they are:

Fortunately it was not muddy as we would have had difficulty. As it was the car was so dusty we had to wash and blow the dust out before returning it.

As we left Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary we were fortunate to see 13 Brolga and an Australian Bustard in an open field full of bales of straw.

On our journey back to Brisbane we overnighted at a motel in Goondiwindi. A look along the river bank yielded two new birds for this trip. Little Friarbird and Pale-headed Rosella.

Sadly it was time to leave and return home. However our last night was spent in luxury at the Pullman Hotel at the airport – thanks to Sally’s sons.

For those interested click on this link to our bird list. What we identified in each location we visited and overall.

Sally and Paul Bartho

Golden Whistler

Australia – Melbourne and Brisbane Part 1

Part 1

September October 2019

When both Sally and I go to Australia we have two goals. The first is to spend time with Sally’s two sons and their families in and around Melbourne and to see how her Grandchildren are growing up. Of course while there we take the opportunity to bird too and we have covered many of the different birding locations in Victoria.

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